Growing up in an abusive household, I always had my worth devalued and tied to my achievements. It left me feeling down, and as if nothing I did was right. It took me years to get to where I am now and feeling good about myself most of the time, and there were a few things I did that helped me on the way. These are some techniques I used to build myself up and also heal in the process.
It could be worth some time to reflect on what "being confident" meant, and whether you require it. It could mean:
- Doing anything you want to do.
- Able to rely on yourself when you need to.
- Feeling that you are valuable and worthy.
Some of these don't actually require confidence; in some situations, confidence is good to have, but not necessary.
For case #1 above, you don't actually require "confidence" to take action, since confidence is just something that helps you along the way. You can be scared and afraid, but take action anyway. In fact, it can actually help you if you research what you want to do more thoroughly because of the lack of confidence.
For case #2, you could just prepare yourself and learn the skills you need. Sure, confidence helps, but it's not all that you need.
Case #3 would then be the true case of confidence - I see confidence as believing that you are valuable and worthy of everything in life.
Cut off negativity
My family has proven for my entire life that they will never support my decisions, and so, I no longer lean on them for support. In fact, I told myself that I would parent myself; my biological parents would no longer have that kind of authority over me. They no longer get input into whether I was worthy or not.
Back when I was still living with them, I gradually stopped offering information on my life or my choices, choosing to remain silent or offer one-word answers to their questions. Instead, I leaned on the internet and journalling to straighten my thoughts. After I moved out, I went low-contact with them.
This however does not mean blind optimism. Constructive feedback is still useful, but cruelty is not.
Measure yourself differently
What do you use to measure your worth? Some people use money, possessions, having a good social life and so on. Decide for yourself what metrics you want, and stick to those. Clarify for yourself what is important to you.
For me, as long as I stuck to my values and acted accordingly, it would mean that I have succeeded. I am "worthy" as long as I've tried my best.
I value taking care of my body and mind. I value improving myself every day. I also value impact - if I did something that improved the world, however small, then I am living the best way I can.
This doesn't mean I don't want to succeed. The goal is to make the baseline so easy to clear that I can consistently do it. This doesn't make me complacent; it's more so that I can feel confident even when I fail.
Another way I used to build confidence was to take action and try things. Telling myself "I will succeed" was not very convincing. Telling myself "I will succeed because I've done it before" was much better. This could have been anything, even something totally unrelated; I just needed proof that I was capable.
No one can take your past away from you - you'll always have that memory of overcoming that obstacle (or trying to). You have proven to yourself that you have the resources you need to do whatever you want to do. Whenever you feel down, you'd always be able to look back on these as concrete proof. Make the focus on taking action and not on the result of that action.
What if you're too scared to do anything? Pick something small. Something that feels risky but doable.
I'd also like to suggest a new perspective, though this can be a bit more philosophical. It goes like this:
- All living things are valuable, simply because they are alive. Life in itself is valuable.
- I am a living thing.
- Therefore, I am valuable.
It was easy for me to agree with #1 above, so the other two conclusions came naturally. We can take this one step further to include all of existence (rocks, stars, planets):
- Existence has some inherent worth to it.
- I am a part of existence.
- Therefore, I am valuable.
To get here, you'd have to decide that life - and existence - has some sort of value to it. That it was a good thing for the Big Bang (that created the universe) to happen, and good for Earth to develop life. For the first version - focusing on living things - you'd have to believe that the "aliveness" of things is something that is valuable.
The trick is to include yourself in a bigger group that has a property inherent to you, without you having to prove anything. Or, in other words, unconditional worth. In this example, I chose being alive - or even simply existing, in any form - as that valuable property. Can't get as simple as that! In fact, even when I'm dead, I'll be valuable as a source of replacement organs or a body for medical students to study. Or simply helping someone keep their job at the mortuary. Though I like to think that I am worth more alive.
To sum up, you'd basically want to find ways to think of yourself as "worthy" that can't be changed by external factors.
Notice that I didn't mention anything about getting enough money or success or getting that ideal body or anything else material or physical. Those are impermanent and you can't carry them with you wherever you are. Things change over time; here, I've aimed to design a core of confidence that will be with you for a lifetime.
I believe that in life - especially for purely psychological stuff like confidence - we should keep perspectives useful to us and discard what aren't. Thinking of ourselves as unworthy clearly doesn't serve us well; it's time to change that.